Using Computers as a Classroom Tool How can you use a computer in class work that expands the function from the computer from a tool for word processing to a resource, a communication tool, and a note taker as well?
How does the project work in the classroom
The project requires the students to apply their academic knowledge and work both cooperatively and collaboratively in designing a genetically engineered product and presenting it in a classroom seminar.
By placing the r equirements , grading rubrics , and job descriptions on the Internet, the students were given a definite reason to use computers for a reason other than word processing. The web also allowed the students to access this information at any time of day and at any computer.
The active links I included allowed me to guide the students in their choice of jobs and in the beginnings of their research. In class, we would talk about how to determine the validity of information on the web. They learned to evaluate, determining critically if the information was sound. Once they learned the basics, they were off on their own, searching the web, following links. They began to use the computer as a research tool.
My students, however, basically see a computer as a typewriter. "The dog ate my homework" has been replaced by "the printer wasn't working!" A few of my students use search engines to find materials on the internet, a fewer still use email. I wanted to create a multi-week project that would teach my students the basics of various careers in the biotech industry and give them an inkling of the work, both individually and in teams, that is required to create a product that can be sold.
Kids carry technology with them wherever they go, so why shouldn't this extend to the classroom? That's the idea behind budding programs designed to put low-priced simplified PCs into the hands of kids worldwide, especially in developing countries. Chipmaker Intel on at the Consumer Electronics Show will unveil its new Classmate net book PC , which is faster than its predecessors and features a touch screen for easier use.
Computers used in the workplace are not suited for the classroom, because in most cases they're fragile and too big for elementary and middle school students’ desks, says a senior principal engineer with Intel who is also a psychologist and anthropologist. "Computing helped transform the way corporations work." Now it is time for them to do the same for education, he adds.
How to Set Up Computers in Your Classroom
If you have several computers.. Set up one computer as a shared presentation/teacher work-station in the front of the room.
Use the rest of the computers as student work-stations. Most teachers form a computer cluster in one area of the room, usually towards the back where they're less apt to cause a distraction.
If you end up with a jumble of wires, color-code each set and the associated computer with stickers. That way you can identify cables when you need to trouble-shoot or move equipment.
Tuck wires out of the way. You may want to consolidate them with one or more "cord snakes," hollow plastic tubes designed for this purpose.
Adapt your mini-lab to your needs. Students sometimes work on the same activity, but other times you may want to designate a different role for each computer. One station can be a reading center with a collection of electronic books, another a writing center with a word processor and publishing tools. Add a math/science center, a social studies center, or a music and art center.
How to Set Up Computers in Your Classroom
If you have one computer Pick a home base for your computer depending on how you expect to use it most often. Remember that you'll need access to electrical outlets and, if available, your phone or cable line.
If possible, keep your computer on a sturdy mobile cart so you can move it around the room. As you and your students develop more expertise, you'll probably use the computer in a greater variety of ways. For example, even if you initially use it as a student workstation, plan ahead so you can move it to the front of the room to use as a presentation tool.
Make sure the height of your computer station is appropriate. The monitor should be eye-level and the keyboard elbow-high. Use a mouse pad so the mouse rolls easily and stays clean.
Plug all the cables into a single power strip equipped with a surge protector. Not all surge protectors are the same, so be sure you get a good one. Better yet, have your district install commercial surge protection on the circuit box.
Protect younger children by covering unused outlets with plug caps.
If you use your computer as a presentation station, you'll probably want a scan converter or a projection device. Scan converters allow you to send your computer image to a television monitor. These devices cost about $200 to $400 and are available from Digital Vision, View, and other manufacturers. LCD (liquid crystal display) panels are connected to your computer via a cable and sit on top of an overhead so the image can be projected on a screen. These units generally cost anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000 and require a high-quality overhead and partially darkened room. (It's easy to see why most schools are opting for scan converters!)
Help students make the best of limited computer time. Organize software, student disks, guides, and/or related resources nearby in a box or on a bookshelf.
Create a schedule. With only one computer it's difficult to provide access for everyone, so you'll need to schedule time for each child or small group. The length should depend on the assignment and students' attention span. Post your schedule by the computer and have a clock or timer readily available.
Use the computer to support your curriculum. There are hundreds of excellent software titles that address specific learning objectives. Look for those that fit your students' needs. (In the upcoming month's article, we'll take a look at integrating technology into the curriculum.)
Share the wealth. Both you and your colleagues have occasions when one computer just won't do. At times like these, arrange to share computers so you can set up a mini-lab in your classroom. If your computers are on mobile carts, transporting them will be easy.
How did students communicate with one another?
As part of this project, each student was required to have an email account. They used email to communicate by email to me and to their group members. I taught my students how they could, while searching on the Internet, open their email account. When a student found material of interest on a website, they could copy and paste the web address and the text into a new mail message and they could email themselves the information. They learned to use the computer as a communication device and as a note taker.
Using the computer in a guided yet independent way helped many students. The quicker students tended to delve more deeply in research on their subject than on a traditional written assignment. Students, especially those who traditionally had difficulty completing assignments, did work online and the partial results - having emails of material they could put together for a paper and presentation, spurred them onto completion.
The students learned business, they learned science, and they learned computer skills that took them far beyond the walls of classroom. The students learned that the freedom of the internet - that anyone can set up a website - is also the bane of the Internet because it required them to critically evaluate their sources, something they don't really need to do with books in a library.
This project is designed to be done over a five to six week period for a high school class and meets several standards .
The time can be shortened by limiting the detail required for inclusion in the reports. The introductory pages can also be used individually as career awareness information.